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CNN TONIGHT

Monster Hurricane Takes Aim at Texas; North Korea Fires Ballistic Missiles; Hurricane Harvey Makes Landfall. Aired 12mn-1a ET

Aired August 26, 2017 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: So here's our breaking news, a monster storm pounding the Texas coast as the White House dumps major breaking news in the middle of it. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

First I want to tell you about Hurricane Harvey, one of the most powerful hurricanes in years, making landfall right now in Texas. The National Weather Service in Houston warning that parts of South Texas could be uninhabitable for weeks or for months.

President signing a disaster proclamation for the state. And as the hurricane bears down on Texas, there's a political storm in Washington brewing. President Trump pardons controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt over his hardline tactics against undocumented immigrants.

Plus White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, who downplayed the threat from white supremacists, is out tonight. We'll have the latest on this busy night of breaking news for you right here on CNN.

Our reporters are out in the middle of the storm tonight, along the Texas coast. CNN's Chad Myers in the hurricane headquarters down in Atlanta; there you see him there.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live for us in Corpus Christi, Texas.

And, Martin, we're going to start with you. Harvey has made landfall, you are getting beaten around by the rain and the wind the last time we spoke to you a hour ago.

What are you seeing?

What's happening?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Landfall happened within the last hour, it's up near, I believe it's Rockport, up that way, it's about 30 miles roughly to the north of where we are right here.

It doesn't look like I'm getting hit as badly as I was. I'm not. It's not because the storm has gone away, it's because hurricanes, with their circular winds, as they push onshore, the wind direction changes. So right now there is a very large hotel that is blocking the wind.

So if you were on the back side of this building, it would have looked like the replay of about two hours ago. But here we're sheltered and kept from the wind. Let's talk about the long-term consequences because even though the storm came ashore, it's not the end of anything. This is really the beginning of the second and perhaps even the more deadly or dangerous phase because it's the inundation that may come next.

Projections of 2 feet of rain in some areas, up to 35 inches of rain, because this is a massive rainmaking system. And due to complicated weather patterns, Chad can explain, it'll probably stall out where it is in South Texas.

We've lost power to 63,000 homes in just this area alone, that's Corpus Christi, they've put into effect a boil order, that's a precaution because they say that, with just so much water all around the place here, essentially the city's drinking water could be contaminated.

But that just gives you hint of the hardship that may lie ahead over the next few days. And the winds are not expected to dramatically die down anytime soon. So the hardship really is not coming to a end; we're just shifting into a much more different and maybe difficult phase -- Don.

LEMON: So, Martin, and we'll have Chad along in a moment, he can explain all of that, there are 131 mile per hour winds.

How does this compare to the other hurricanes you've covered.

Because you and I have both been out in a lot of them. I've seen you on the air and I've worked with you on some.

How does this compare?

SAVIDGE: Well, first of all, I've done a category 5 and I hope to never do it again. Category 4 is very close. That would take it one step above Katrina. I think what made this one frightening and difficult was the fact it literally blew up so quickly.

It had an explosive intensity that began as soon as it came off the Yucatan Peninsula. So what that meant, all of those communities along the Texas South Coast here had very little time to prepare.

That's really their biggest nightmare any city official will have, is a storm that blows up suddenly in the Gulf in which there's little or no time. People did, in many cases, pay heed; we saw a lot of people leave the community and head up toward San Antonio.

I don't mean everybody; there were a lot of people who remained behind. But it's quite clear that people took the messages they were hearing seriously. Now is not the time to try to evacuate. The problem is, if you didn't

leave, you could be here a long time because if the water does pile up as is expected, then it could cut off not only rescue efforts to come in but escape routes for people to get out.

That's exactly the kind of thing you saw in New Orleans after Katrina. This is not a Katrina; it's a very different circumstance. But the danger is extremely high and --

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SAVIDGE: -- no one should let their guard down now that the storm has come ashore.

LEMON: Martin Savidge is in Corpus Christi, the storm has made landfall. We'll continue to check in with Martin.

Martin, thank you for that.

I want to get to Ed Lavandera. Ed is covering this for us from Galveston, Texas.

Hello to you, Ed. The deadliest hurricane to hit the United States was in Galveston more than a century ago. Set the scene for us now.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That was a century ago. In 2008, Hurricane Ike, a very similar storm to what Hurricane Harvey is, made a direct hit on this island here. This is now 2017, Hurricane Harvey is its own beast in many ways.

We are on the eastern edge of the storm. The good news is the lights you see behind me, at least here on Galveston Island, we made a run of the island a little while ago, much of the power is still on in most of the places I was able to check out as we could get out in between some of the bands of intense rain and wind just a little while ago.

From that standpoint, then you also still see a decent amount of traffic considering the time of night we're in here. It's the communities between Galveston Island and Corpus Christi that are of the greatest concern, especially when you consider that the eye of this hurricane came ashore through their smaller communities that perhaps don't have the seawall protection that you see on a more populated area like here in Galveston.

That will be of great concern. Rescue crews and teams aren't able to survey the damage here in the darkness of night. But as the sun comes up tomorrow they'll be able to get a sense of how devastating the intensity of this storm and what kind of damage it unleashed along these shorelines.

As we've been talking throughout most of the day, it's the concern of the rain. What is odd here on Galveston Island, is hat the rain bands have been rather minimal for the last couple hours but the winds have been sustained at the levels you see here right now.

We know that those rain totals will continue to fall, especially considering Hurricane Harvey in some projections, might actually start moving its way here toward the east, toward where Galveston Island is.

And that rainfall, not just along the coast but it's the more inland communities where the fear of widespread, potentially deadly flooding is of great concern. Because of that, there have been a number of emergency management teams that specialize high water rescues, that have been prepositioned to be able to better respond to those calls as they start coming in, as those floodwaters will start rising here in the overnight hours and into tomorrow as well -- Don.

LEMON: Ed Lavandera is in Galveston, Texas, for us. Ed, we'll check back with you. Thank you. Stay safe.

I want to bring in now Lieutenant General Russel Honore, who was commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, and David Brady from the Red Cross in Houston. They both joins us via Skype.

Gentlemen, thank you so much again. We know it's a busy night. And I'm sure your thoughts and prayers, as all of us, go out to the people in the Texas.

So Lt. General Honore, I'm going to start with you. The president is at Camp David tonight. He has been busy. He signed the directive banning transgender military recruits, pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio tonight.

What advice do you have for him as he faces his first natural disaster?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, COMMANDER, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA: Well, he needed to be praying right now because the worst part of the storm is yet to come. The eye is normally the big crescendo for a hurricane. But this particular hurricane, it's just like the first half of a football game.

Once the eye comes ashore, we're looking at another three days, Don, of intensive rain and flooding. And this is a coastal plains, where it will be meandering around, circling around for the next 2-3 days. So the worst is yet to come. We hope everybody has heeded the advice and stayed inside.

But my fear is, as any case like this, a resemblance to Katrina, is that the elderly and disabled people and the people that didn't have the means to leave are shut in their homes now and now they will be surrounded by floodwaters, either from the surge or from the rainwater.

And the majority of people we lost during Katrina were home alone, most of them we found alone at home.

LEMON: That was from -- most of them died from the storm surge, you know, from that flooding.

I have to ask you, the president signed a disaster declaration. Explain what that means, General.

HONORE: Yes. The normal declarations are signed after the event happen, the normal tornado would come in and, a couple days later, the governors would assess what their problems are and would ask the president for a disaster declaration.

The enormity of this storm caused the president to sign a pre-landfall declaration --

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HONORE: -- and he had been asked by the governor of Texas to do this. What this does is freeze up all federal assets are now available and for -- available for them to use and the charge for anything that they rent, overtime, all those things start prior to landfall and storm.

And this is a big deal. This is really going to help the small towns and can rural communities out there in Texas because now they know they will get reimbursed because those counties have been declared a disaster area. And they can now further prepare tomorrow because expanse of the storm is such, there are still people out there dry tonight, that will be wet come Monday morning and underwater. Now they can be better prepared, getting their shelters together and doing a better job of evacuating, prepositioning generators because the power is going to go out.

And they can have the shelters as well as keep the infrastructure, like hospitals, gas stations, that will have generators. So they'll be able to put those in tomorrow -- Don.

LEMON: So, Lieutenant General Honore, the president, the White House has said the president is planning to visit Texas next week.

Good choice, you think?

HONORE: I think, depending where he go, I mean, he can go to Texas and visit the state capital, he can go to Texas and go to someplace that he got access to. There are many airfields down there in the south that he could have access to.

I think at this point in time, that would be a good call. I mean, people expect to see the president. You remember what happened after Hurricane Katrina, that big boobah. But let's see how bad this end up being.

I would expect with the winds the way they going to be for three or four days, he's going to have a hard time flying in his helicopters because that's going to be a problem. The wind is expected to be above 35 miles an hour. And that's going to be hard flying for helicopters and unsafe.

And those helicopters that will be flying will be busy trying to do search and rescue and get water and supplies to people that are isolated -- Don.

LEMON: OK.

David, to you now, you've been sitting there patiently. Thank you. You are in Houston tonight for the Red Cross. How's the Red Cross been preparing?

DAVID BRADY, HOUSTON RED CROSS: Well, Don, thanks for having me on tonight. And yes, I'm in Houston at the Disaster Command Center here of the Red Cross in Houston and our strategy in everything that we do at the Red Cross is prepare, respond and recover.

And for the last several days we've been in the prepare mode, which is the safety mode. We want our staff, our volunteers, our neighbors and communities to be safe and preparing.

Tonight we've sent people home to get some rest, knowing that this is the last time they're probably going to get some good rest because starting tomorrow in the southern part of our region, which goes all the way down in Corpus, they're already in respond mode.

Up here in Houston we're trying to get the last night of rest because it's going to be about respond for days and I'm guessing weeks here in Texas.

LEMON: What are you most concerned about, David?

BRADY: Right now I'm most concerned about my fellow Texans. I'm a native Texan. This community means a lot to me. We've been through things like this before. I huddled in my home in Channelview, just east of Houston during Hurricane Alicia with my family. And it was less than a hour after the storm passed that our neighbors and my fellow Texans were out recovering from that event.

From a Red Cross perspective, I think what we need most is volunteers, we need people who have the means and ability to come out and help and support their neighbors here in Texas. They can volunteer with the Red Cross at redcross.org/volunteers. The Red Cross relies on the commitment of the volunteers and the generosity of their donors to help in the times of need. And that's really what I'm focused on here tonight.

LEMON: Even here in New York where I am, I heard neighbors saying today that they were starting to send care packages. And you mentioned volunteering and what they can do. But if you can tell us more in the coming days, people are going to want to help.

What's the best way they can assist?

BRADY: Honestly, at this point, the best way they can assist is financially; redcross.org is the best place to go for that information. This event is going to be catastrophic. It's going to be millions and tens of millions of dollars of recovery.

And the Red Cross is here to support our neighbors. You mentioned earlier the storm of 1900, Don. The last disaster response that Clara Barton, our founder, served on before retiring was the Galveston hurricane in September of 1900, known as Isaac's Storm.

The Red Cross has been responding to hurricanes on the Texas Gulf Coast and all over this country since then and we will be long after Hurricane Harvey.

LEMON: What are you most concerned about with this storm?

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LEMON: First to you, David.

BRADY: I'm most concerned about the flooding here in the Greater Houston area. The southern part of our region, in our state, the winds and potential for tornadoes. We're already hearing about building collapses down in the southern part of the state.

But the flooding really will have the long term impact that I think can be devastating and keep a lot of people out of their homes for a long time. I think, for me, that's what I'm concerned about the most right now.

LEMON: Lieutenant General, what about you?

HONORE: Flooding and the fact that we didn't have a full-fledged mandatory evacuation. You know, Katrina, we had a mandatory evacuation. And we got 80 percent of the people out of the city before the storm.

We may have come close to that in Corpus. But the rest of that area, very little evacuation, particularly in the small rural areas that are inland, that can be affected by the surge water, and those areas subjected to flooding because it's a coastal plain.

And it's a lot more dynamic than New Orleans was because it's rural areas that are subject to flooding and now we have got these small towns where people are isolated. That is what I fear the most -- Don.

LEMON: General Honore, thank you so much.

David Brady, thank you, as well. I appreciate it.

When we come back, much more on all of our breaking news. Hurricane Harvey makes landfall on the Texas coast and North Korea fires three ballistic missiles.

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LEMON: So this is live pictures from Rockport, Texas. This is the place that issued the warning to people that, if they were going to stay, that they should write their name and Social Security number on their forearm so that they can identify them. And again, this is someone just driving there. You can see the

weather conditions as we have been telling you here on CNN; the storm has made landfall. The lower part of Texas near Corpus Christi, they are in the eye of the storm.

You saw our Martin Savidge there, being battered about, and then, his last live shot, fairly calm. But then once the eye moves over there will be more rain and wind on the other side of it.

Again, this is near Rockport, Texas, and you see a driving shot of the weather conditions down in Texas as Hurricane Harvey is making landfall on the Texas coast.

This all happening as North Korea fires three ballistic missiles. President Trump doubles down on his ban on transgender troops. So joining me now, CNN military and diplomatic analyst, Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Admiral, thank you so much for joining us late into the evening here on a Friday. But nonetheless, still very interesting and dynamic, not a slow news Friday.

So where do we even start?

There's so many breaking news stories. First, I want to get your reaction to this huge storm and what the impact is on any U.S. military bases, ports, the Coast Guard and others and so on.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: You can imagine that they already had been and I'm sure for days taking preps to make sure that their families were evacuated and moved off if they needed to be, that they moved assets, whether it's aircraft or ships or boats out of the area so that they didn't get damaged.

And also to make sure that they were ready if needed to come in and help. You had a great interview earlier with the Texas National Guard, just do amazing work, our National Guardsmen all over the country. They are always prepared for this kind of thing.

But the active duty military may also be called in to help. That happened in Katrina for sure. We'll see what happens here if there's a need for it. They'll certainly be ready and available to do that, which is another why, Don, if they have aircraft at these bases, they want them to move out of the area so that they can stay fully operationally ready.

LEMON: All right. So this happens while North Korea fires three short-range ballistic missiles tonight. That's according to U.S. officials. This is happening while South Korea and U.S. military exercises are underway.

What's your take on this launch?

KIRBY: Well, I think at its core, it is -- the timing of it is a reaction to the exercises; as you rightly noted, these exercises are knowing on. These are yearly exercises, they are defensive in nature. We do them every year. We need to do them to keep up our readiness with our South Korean allies.

Typically, every year, Pyongyang reacts. I think that's what this is. That said, I think we also -- we shouldn't have blinders on here. He, Kim Jong-un, continues to try to improve a ballistic missile program in violation of countless U.N. Security Council resolutions.

And every time he shoots off a missile, even if it fails, as these three did, he learns something. He is still trying to advance that program. So while I think this is a reaction to the exercise, we shouldn't take it lightly.

LEMON: Admiral Kirby, lastly, the president issues instructions on how to implement his transgender ban. This comes after his initial tweet took his Joint Chiefs of Staff by surprise earlier a week ago. And he was rebuked by members of both parties.

What happens now?

KIRBY: Well, let me first say that I continue to find this policy approach for him short sighted and against all the core values of the military. It makes no sense to me why we would be moving down this path after President Obama lifted the ban on open service.

These are talented, skilled people. They are probably hundreds to thousands of them in the military right now doing amazing work and what matters is can you do the job, can you accomplish the mission?

And that's where -- and so the policy shouldn't have been reversed. Let me put that aside, though. That said, I think that the DOD, the Defense Department, had a role in helping shape this new policy memo by the president, which means they have, if you read it carefully, they've given themselves some flexibility.

Secretary Mattis has flexibility both in terms of determining what might happen to current members, in terms of combat effectiveness and their being able to contribute to the mission. But also, even though we haven't enlisted openly transgender members, because even under President Obama we didn't actually get there yet, the president made it clear in this policy memo that he was going wait a review of that issue --

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KIRBY: -- from Secretary Mattis and that he would take under consideration as he reviewed this, he would take under consideration lethality and combat effectiveness, unit cohesion, those kinds of things.

So it gives Secretary Mattis a little bit of flexibility. I obviously hope that he takes every bit of that flexibility that he can to make sure that these qualified individuals can continue to serve their country as honorably and as bravely as they have openly in the last eight or nine months.

LEMON: Admiral Kirby, thank you.

KIRBY: You bet.

LEMON: When we come back, much more on Hurricane Harvey, the monster storm making landfall and pounding the Texas coast.

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LEMON: Live pictures. Here's a highway in Texas outside of Rockport. As you can see, the weather conditions there deteriorating by the minute. This is a driving shot, showing our viewers exactly how bad the weather is in this part of Texas near Rockport. Hurricane Harvey has made landfall, a very dangerous category storm, with winds of 130 miles an hour.

Chad Myers in the CNN hurricane headquarters with more for us, Chad, what's the latest?

What is this storm doing?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is moving inland a little bit. And those pictures were deceiving that we were just showing you in Rockport, because they are in the eye, in the center of the eye, where there is no weather.

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But it's about to get really bad again. Winds gust at 130 miles per hour near Rockport earlier and there's a lot of damage in that town. And there's going to be more damage when the second part of the eye moves over.

Here's what we expect for the next few hours, the storm to linger along the coast. Don, you might have a barometer at home and if you don't, your mom does or your dad did or your grandpa did. Go on the barometer and look for 27.70, pretty much guarantee that's not even on the barometer. That's the current pressure of the storm.

So even though it's on shore, it's going to take days for it to die. This is one of the lowest pressures to make landfall in a very long time, one of only four cat 4s since 1970. The last was Charlie.

This is a big deal. This was a big wind damage deal. Good news it didn't get in the way of any really big cities. Corpus Christi had damage but this did not run over Houston.

So it is going to be there for a while. It is not going to move very much. We show you these spaghetti models all the time. Here is what's going to happen in the next 24 hours: not much. But here's what might happen in the next 72 hours. Pick one because there will be one that's right.

But there are 13 others that are wrong. There's no way to know where this storm is going. We know the storm surge is there. We know that there's flooding. We know that there's an awful lot of damage done in some of these small towns and it's not going to end.

The weather doesn't really taper off. It's going to be a hurricane for 36 more hours before it finally dies. This is such a big hurricane it's going to take that long to finally go away.

And then finally we talk about the rainfall numbers. We will see some spots with 20 to 30 inches of rain in the next five days because it's going to rain where it's raining right now and it's going to keep on raining -- Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: As bad as you thought it was going to be, Chad?

MYERS: Yes, I think so. I do believe we've only just begun. This is the first quarter-mile of a 26.2 mile run. We are just in it now. This is just the beginning. We haven't really begun to see what I consider -- this is probably going to be a $20 billion storm.

Ryan Maui (ph), one of the meteorologists that we talk to all the time, he's a doctor, he's great, he's fantastic. He said that there will be 20 trillion gallons of rain. Now you cover up the entire state of South Carolina with 20 inches of rain and that's what it's going to be, the size of South Carolina is going to be covered up with 20 inches of rain.

Where is it going to go?

It's going to go into a lot of homes, businesses and hopefully people make wise decisions to stay out of the way.

LEMON: Chad Myers, thank you, sir. We'll check back.

Joining me now via Skype is Phil Bedient (ph), he's a professor at Rice University Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation center and also there you see Douglas Brinkley on your screen, historian and CNN contributor as well.

Phil, I'm going to start with you. You said that this could be a flood disaster beyond belief.

Do you think the residents of Texas, in the path of this storm, understood that?

PHIL BEDIENT (PH), RICE UNIVERSITY: Well, I think they do now. I think it's been very widely presented by the media and there's no question that there's been an awful lot of preparation for the storm.

But still, for Houston to see 15 to 20 to 25 inches of rain is just a enormous disaster. And right now, the concern is that the storm is going to head our direction.

LEMON: Explain the damage you're expecting to see in the aftermath of this hurricane.

BEDIENT (PH): Well, Houston is a very large metropolitan area and it's also extremely flat and it is somewhat flood-prone. So there are a lot of bayous here that are only really designed to carry maybe 10 or 12 inches of rainfall.

So if the 20 inches or so that they project, if it comes in over a long three-day period, we may see some flooding. But if a lot of that rain all falls in a single day, for example, then we could be in real, real trouble.

And we could see a return of something that happened here in 2001, like Tropical Storm Allison, which generated billions and billions of dollars of damage within Harris (ph) County.

LEMON: Hey, Douglas Brinkley, to you now, stand by, Phil.

Doug, we all remember -- a heck of a job, Brownie (ph) and I have to get your reaction on what we have seen from the president tonight as this storm is coming ashore in Texas. He's pardoning a controversial sheriff, Joe Arpaio, signing a directive banning transgender military recruits and on and on.

What's your --

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LEMON: -- reaction to that?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN POLITICAL HISTORIAN: We don't even have a head of Homeland Security at this juncture. A lot of key posts in emergency operations for the federal government haven't been filled by the Trump administration.

I think it's bad taste for Donald Trump to be doing a news dump when a category 4 storm is slamming into Gulf Texas. Cities like Rockport, Padre Island and Port Aransas right now are going to get a brunt of surge, where the whole communities will be devastated for years.

So I think this would be a Friday night not politicize it, to have a kind of reverence and prayer for the victims of the hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, but Donald Trump seemed to be thinking on a different wavelength right now.

I think he's still angry about Jeff Flake questioning the wall, he's angry at John McCain and he wants a kind of showdown in Arizona. But at the very least, this all could have waited for a week. He did it in the middle of an evening when the rest of the country should be watching what's going on in the Gulf of Mexico.

LEMON: Doug, why do you say the president has a 72-hour window?

BRINKLEY: The key thing I learned -- I wrote a book about Katrina is that in research and rescue you have got to get to the people. Once the electricity goes off in Corpus Christi area tonight, for example, a lot of people are on ventilators, respirators. They stayed, they thought they could weather the storm.

But without the electricity, with continued flooding, it will be hard to get emergency operators to them, to get medics to them. And so our U.S. Coast Guard, which did almost flawless job during Katrina, has a mighty task ahead of them, as well as Texas National Guard, how do you to these rural communities along the barrier islands and the like?

This is a very wide storm, so there is a real need to think about the human lives. Now we can compute the dollars, the billions it's going to cost later, we have got to save as many lives as we can. And the window gets short, people die if you don't get to them in a few days after a storm like this.

LEMON: Doug, what have been some of the biggest mistakes presidents have made during national disasters?

BRINKLEY: Remember George W. Bush during Katrina kind of did a big aw, shucks, his Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff went to an avian flu convention in Atlanta. President Bush stayed in San Diego, he played air guitar, talking about Iraq and acting like the storm wasn't a very big deal, a little bit like Donald Trump in Camp David.

And then Bush decided to do a flyover, just fly over to look at the disaster from the window. People want a president eventually to seem more engaged with a catastrophic natural disaster.

Lyndon Johnson, for example, when Hurricane Betsy hit in 1965, went into the lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, went and met people, went in a boat and said, I am your president, I am here.

Donald Trump has announced he'll be coming to Texas next week. That's good. But we're going to need billions and billions of federal dollars to go and help these storm victims. And I hope the president gets on the right page this weekend and acts presidential instead of acting like a political hack.

LEMON: Douglas Brinkley, Phil Bedient (ph), thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate it.

When we come back, much more on Hurricane Harvey, the first category 4 hurricane to make landfall in the United States for more than a decade.

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LEMON: All right. So there you go. This is Texas, the conditions on the road there. You see a driving shot as someone is driving through the highways of Texas. We believe it is near Rockport, Texas, which is going to be hit hard by the storm.

This Hurricane Harvey making landfall, pounding the Texas coast tonight. I want to go to a storm chaser now, his name is Ben McMillan, he is in Ingleside, Texas, near Corpus Christi, and he joins us on the phone. So, Ben, take us through what you're seeing, where are you exactly and what's going on?

BEN MCMILLAN, STORM CHASER: Good evening, it's just before midnight and we're continuing to be in the outer western eyewall of the hurricane, watching the intense winds and rainfall, as you can see in our live camera shot.

Continue to rotate around the eye of the hurricane and causing quite a bit of damage around here. That's just the beginning of the threat. We'll obviously see the rainfall continue to fall throughout the night and cause potential flooding.

LEMON: We're looking at your pictures, Ben.

How much have you been able to get out and about and around?

Are you seeing much flooding?

MCMILLAN: Not much. The main threat thus far has been the wind. It's obviously been raining very heavily but it hasn't sustained itself in the long durations that are forecasted in the next few days. So we're not seeing a lot of the flooded roads yet. But there's definitely a lot of water coming down and that will continue throughout the remainder of the night.

LEMON: Anybody on the road, Ben, besides storm chasers and emergency people?

Are you seeing anyone?

MCMILLAN: We've seen a few locals and we were actually even taking shelter at the park cell safe (ph) at times. We saw other folks driving. So obviously not everyone got the message that this is a dangerous storm, a category 4, the second strongest hurricane on Earth, a very high-end storm.

And we were surprised to see the people that we did out and about on the roadways tonight.

LEMON: We have gotten word that there are thousands and thousands of people without power.

What are you seeing?

Are you seeing power outages?

MCMILLAN: Well, you're looking at that shot live right in front of us. The gas station has no power here; we're next to a Pizza Hut, no power as well. We've seen lots of these large green power flashes as the storm moved in. Different parts of the power grid failing.

So those will probably be outages that will last potentially for days or weeks until all of the lines can be restored on the Texas Gulf Coast.

LEMON: So you're a storm chaser, I would imagine, do you have devices to read the wind speed and all of that?

You said the biggest issue right now has been lots of rain and the wind, right?

Are you getting a --

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LEMON: -- how high the winds are?

MCMILLAN: Yes, we have a variety of equipment. We've had gusts consistently up close to very high levels, such as --

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MCMILLAN: -- 100 miles an hour. And in the eye of that hurricane, we actually had winds over 100. So a lot of damaging wind potential that came in into the Fulton and Rockport areas. That's where the eye came onshore and that's where we'll see the most significant damage I think when the daylight comes out tomorrow.

LEMON: Where'd you start out, Ben?

MCMILLAN: We started out in Corpus Christi we were actually grateful that the storm shifted a little bit to the east and north, Corpus Christi, a city of around 300,000, obviously less populated areas but still very unfortunate here in the Rockport, Fulton and Ingleside areas.

LEMON: Explain to our viewers how far up the road Rockport and Fulton are.

MCMILLAN: We're looking at probably a 30-mile-wide area where the eye came on shore, not really large. Eyes of hurricanes can get much larger than that. We have a small compact eye but very intense winds, as you know, we were talking about that category 4 storm, the second strongest hurricane possible.

So not a large area that's affected but unfortunately the damage will be very severe once again when daylight comes.

LEMON: How will you protect yourself on the back end?

Because you're in the eye now.

What are you going to do?

MCMILLAN: Well, what you don't see is there's a concrete building to our left side, which is blocking the majority of the wind and that's why we're able to give you the shot safely of the current conditions inside this hurricane's eyewall. And we'll maintain our safety throughout the rest of the night. And we'll obviously keep our eyes open for anyone that might need our assistance.

LEMON: If you're just tuning in, I just want to update our viewers, Ben, stand by. You're watching CNN's live coverage of Hurricane Harvey's now made landfall. We have a storm chaser who is sort of in the eye of the storm. He's out saying he's witnessed winds of up to 100-110 miles an hour, lots of rain, power outages, some people still out on the road. His name is Ben McMillan and he is in Ingleside, Texas; started out in Corpus Christi, sort of in that area and Rockport as well.

Hey, Ben, at Rockport, the Rockport area, that's where officials were saying if you're going to ride the storm out, if you stay, they want you to write your name and Social Security number on your forearm. They're expecting the winds and the storm surge and damage to be just that bad.

MCMILLAN: Yes, we had a mandatory evacuation order in place for that area. That's the highest level of urgency officials can stress in the path of these strong hurricanes, basically that they expect total devastation and they want everyone to leave.

Because unfortunately, if you call 9-1-1, if you call someone for help, there may not be anyone that is able to respond. And that's obviously a worst case scenario for the emergency services in this area.

LEMON: Ben McMillan, storm chaser in Ingleside, Texas, be safe. Thank you, sir.

MCMILLAN: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, much more on Hurricane Harvey making landfall tonight and pounding the Texas coast.

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LEMON: And there is Texas. Those are the roads, at least one of the roads. And you can see folks that are out driving. This particular individual is out driving for affiliate KSAT down in Texas, just getting -- giving us some sort of situation -- awareness of the situation of the roads in Texas. We believe this is near Rockport, in the Corpus Christi area.

And you can see the electricity is out and you see flashing lights in this shot as well. I'm wondering if that may be some sort of an emergency vehicle.

Did you see the trees down there?

If you take a close look, you can see some of the damage. There's some of the leaves and branches down. I don't know if there are trees down. That's branches down. But there's damage and you can see on these businesses on the right- and the left-hand side of your screen, no power. None of the lights are on.

And the only thing that you're seeing that looks like lights are either oncoming cars or the reflection of some of the street signs. And it looks like maybe there's some power now. We look to the left in this particular area.

So it appears to be spotty down in Texas. We're following this storm. It's making landfall right now tonight on the Texas coast, a category 4 hurricane. Winds of up to 130 miles an hour. We had a storm chaser on just moments ago said he was witnessing winds 110 miles an hour as he was out there on the roads.

This storm is pounding the coast with hurricane force winds, knocking down trees, power poles, signs and with the torrential rain deluging the streets, some of which you see there right now.

I want to bring in Eric Sifuentes. He's a Corpus Christi resident who stayed put in the face of this monster storm. And he joins us now by phone.

Eric, thank you so much.

Can you please tell us what it's like where you are right now?

ERIC SIFUENTES, CORPUS CHRISTI RESIDENT: Nice to speak to you. Right now it's been constant rain and heavy, heavy wind. I mean, you can feel it when the (INAUDIBLE) and you can feel it like pushing against the walls of -- in our home. At times it's not that it's scary but it's kind of different.

We've gone through some storms before. So (INAUDIBLE) it's normal but it's not normal to feel it as constant and continuous.

LEMON: How has the night been for you?

How's it going?

Do you have power?

And what have you seen?

You said that it's not scary, it's different. But what have you been experiencing throughout the night?

SIFUENTES: Well, we were out there earlier (INAUDIBLE) and we actually kind of felt everything coming in. And once we started noticing that it started getting harder, that's when we came home.

As far as power, we've had power here in -- we're like in the center part of Corpus. So we've had power up until about 11:15 Central time. That was the first time our power went out.

[00:55:00]

SIFUENTES: And it just like flashed out, then it turned back on and probably about 5 minutes after that, it flashed again and it turned back and we've been good since then.

LEMON: So you got a little power.

Can you tell us about the damage if you've seen any again?

SIFUENTES: Yes, well, I'm just looking out our windows. I see a lot of single parts, a couple of branches have been broken off. The trees are really clean, so they have some hanging branches on there, too.

But as far as anything else, I've seen like locals, like (INAUDIBLE) have been posting videos of sheds rolling down the yard and stuff.

LEMON: What's your plan, Eric, as the night progresses for the rest of the night?

Will you or anyone in your family be able to sleep in these conditions?

SIFUENTES: Well, that's the funny aspect. Just a little while ago I was talking. I saw my girlfriend was as we all know and was really passed out. So I had to kind of bump her and say, hey, I think they're going to give me call and I'm going to be on TV. So she's passed out. Me, I think it's going to be OK. I'll be on alert though, but I think I'll be OK.

LEMON: Why did you decide to stay?

Walk us through your thought process for that.

SIFUENTES: For tonight? Like if something happens?

LEMON: Yes, why did you decide to stay and not evacuate?

SIFUENTES: Well, I guess, I don't know if it's like the past couple of years we've always been missed and missed and missed. And when they said this was coming, I was kind of hesitant to leave or stay.

But I figure it's missed us years and years ago, so it'll probably miss us again. But growing up, my parents always took me out whenever storms would come by, just to go look at the water. And so it was something I really wanted to do and really wanted to see.

So that kind of helped me, what made me decide to stay because I want to see everything and experience everything. So hopefully I think our power's just flashed out right now.

LEMON: All right. Well, we wish you the best. Eric Sifuentes, a Corpus Christi resident, who decided to stay with his girlfriend, as you heard. We wish him the best. We'll be right back.